Met Police four times more likely to use force against black than white people in London, show new figures

Scotland Yard says any disproportionate use of force will be investigated and data helps transparency

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 24 May 2018 15:11
Most incidents recorded as a use of force included handcuffing
Most incidents recorded as a use of force included handcuffing

Police are four times more likely to use force against black people than white people in London, figures suggest.

The majority of more than 62,200 incidents recorded by the Metropolitan Police in 2017/18 involved handcuffing, but others saw officers point guns at suspects or use Tasers, CS spray and batons.

Around 27,000 incidents involved white suspects, 23,000 black, 6,400 Asian, 2,000 mixed and others were marked “other” or “don’t know”.

But when compared to London’s general population, the figures show the use of force was equivalent to once for 50 black people and once for every 200 of the white population.

Around 13 per cent of London’s residents are black, but the ethnicity made up 36 per cent of force incidents recorded by Scotland Yard.

White people, by contrast, make up 60 per cent of London but only 44 per cent of force incidents.

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, called the figures “truly shocking”. “The disproportionate use of force is clearly discriminatory,” she added. ”This is not a recipe for good police-community relations.”

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said the force was aiming to improve officers’ training and increase transparency and public confidence by publishing the data.

“The proportionate use of force is essential in some circumstances where officers have to protect the public and often themselves from violence,” he added.

“Officers have to, and have always had to, account for all uses of force, which must be proportionate, lawful and only used when necessary. The use-of-force recording programme has not changed that.

“Where the use of force is alleged to have been disproportionate, there are well defined avenues for this to be investigated, both by the Metropolitan Police and the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”

The statistics are the first of their kind after the requirement for police officers to record details of their use of force was introduced in April 2017.

Officers must record their reasons for the move, including protecting the public or themselves, preventing a criminal offence, securing evidence, making an arrest or preventing escape. They also write down whether the person was compliant, resistant or aggressive, whether there was any known mental or physical disability, any injuries sustained and the outcome of the incident.

Documents show the vast majority start with an attempt at handcuffing, followed by other tactics including Tasers, “unarmed skills”, CS spray, dogs and batons if the person is not initially restrained.

The Home Office said the use of force is now recorded by police officers across England and Wales. “Data on officers’ use of force will provide unprecedented transparency and accountability and, in the longer term, will also provide an evidence base to support the development of tactics, training and equipment to enhance the safety of all,” a spokesperson added.

The statistics come after separate measures show the use of stop and search in London is also racially disproportionate, and a review by MP David Lammy that found racial bias throughout the criminal justice system.

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